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The English word trophy originated from an ancient Greek word, pronounced tropaion, which literally meant to rout, that is, to overwhelmingly defeat an enemy. The ancient Greeks displayed trophies, captured weapons or armor of a defeated enemy, often by mounting them on a tree or pillar for display. The Greeks were not the only people to do so of course; many conquerers, long before the Greeks (see below) and long after (e.g. U.S. President George W. Bush proudly has Saddam Hussein's mounted-on-a-plaque pistol in the Oval Office) valued war trophies.


David There are a number of examples in Bible History of the taking of trophies, not merely spoils of war, but the weapons or armor of a defeated enemy. In ancient times the trophy could also include the head of a defeated king or warrior. The best-known examples of that are when the Philistines took the beheaded body and armor of King Saul after he was killed in battle at Mount Gilboa. The other famous example is David's taking the Philistine giant Goliath's head and armor - the head to Jerusalem, the armor to his own tent

There are those who believe that David didn't kill Goliath with the sling and stone, but merely disabled the giant man with it long enough to behead him - which is possible.

Others believe that Goliath was indeed killed by the stone that actually pierced his skull (people have been killed from being hit in the head with baseballs and hockey pucks, so why not a high velocity stone that actually enters the skull?) and that David beheaded the dead, or about to die, Goliath for a trophy. The Scripture account doesn't say that the stone merely bounced off his head, but that it actually penetrated his brain, which is very likely a mortal wound. Logic implies that if his reason for beheading Goliath was just to kill him, he wouldn't have taken the head with him back to Jerusalem:

"And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth."

"So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David."

"Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith ... And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent." (1 Samuel 17:49-51,54)

Saul's head and armor were taken by the Philistines after he was killed in battle against them:

"And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa."

"And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people."

"And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan." (1 Samuel 31:8-10 KJV)

Fact Finder: Was the head of John the Baptist taken as a trophy by those who had him murdered?
Matthew 14:8-12
See also John's Last Days

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